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14 January 2006

Your Vouvray May Vary

Vouvray55wWhen I'm asked what turned me on to wine, I respond, often ineloquently, that it is the intriguing tangle of climate, geography and culture.  Occasionally, the follow-up gets dropped:  "What do you mean?"  What I mean can be summed up in one word: "Vouvray."

The winemaking tradition of this Loire Valley region is tied directly to its geography & climate.  Vouvray is home to the Chenin Blanc grape.  This region does possess a distinctive wine style.  However, the style resembles something akin to a sliding scale; a moving target if you will.  Additionally, the character of wine in most, if not all, bottles of Vouvray is decided upon by mother nature.  Rather than aiming for a preconceived expression of Chenin Blanc, the vignerons of Vouvray take what the earth, wind, rain, etc. deliver.

To the casual wine drinker, Vouvray can be mighty confusing.  One bottle may offer dry, crisp wine with echos of honey & peach.  The next bottle could yield sweet and richly decadent nectar.  Indeed, without a magnifying glass to inspect bottle labels, Vouvray newbies could take up head-scratching as a full time job.

Let's run down the styles you might discover in a bottle of Vouvray:

Sec - dry.  In average growing seasons, Vouvray is bottled as a dry, crisp white wine.  Occasionally, dry Vouvray possesses such acid-induced austerity, that several years of aging are almost mandatory.

Sec-tendre/Demi-sec - off-dry.  Growing seasons that allow a little extra grape hang time in the sun often produce wine with more sweetness balanced by still-present mouthwatering acidity.

Moelleux - "marrow" or mellow.  This is where mother nature starts getting generous. A long, mellow growing season makes for pleasantly plump grapes that, while sweet, do not produce wines with too much sugar junk in the trunk.  Good moelleux Vouvray is sweet, but not syrupy, with enough life-giving acidity to age many years.  Well-aged wines of this style can grow old, complex and compelling.

Liquoreux - oh so sweet.  When the perfect growing season is combined with a little magic, Vouvray for the ages becomes possible.  The 'little magic' is noble rot, which is a result of the voodoo that she (Mama Nature) do.  If the right natural jackpot of temperature and humidity is hit then shriveled, visually unappealing grapes, produce, sweeeeeet, concentrated juice with special sauce.  Vouvray of this type can age literally for decades and evolve into something that is not of this earth.

Of course there is no better way to understand Vouvray then to set off on a multi bottle expedition.  To get you started allow me to recommend two friendly & affordable examples of Vouvray 101.

1. Chateau de Montfort Vouvray AOC, 2003 ($10) [note: this wine doesn't carry any style designation.  The 2003 vintage is just slightly demi-sec.  However, other vintages may be drier or sweeter.

2. Champalou Vouvray AOC, 2004 ($16) [note: this wine does carry a style designation - on the back label, below the UPC code. It is 'Sec'] - review below

The Skinny
Champvouv04Champalou Vouvray AOC, 2004 ($16) [imported by Kermit Lynch]

  • Chenin Blanc from the Vouvray appellation in the Loire Valley [12% alcohol]
  • Pale, white gold in color
  • Fresh peach & honey scents along with subtle floral notes
  • In the mouth, Champalou is both dry & surprisingly stout.  It is quite crisp, yet also, weighty on the tongue.  This Vouvray offers simple fruit flavors of peach with hints of fresh squeezed OJ

***.5 (3.5 stars out of 5)

Perfect with a little take-out curry, Japanese tempura, or Stephen's scallops.

Once these wines establish a baseline for you.  You may want to go full-monty-Vouvray.  The Caveman recently took part in a Vouvray tasting.  His notes will give you an idea of what to expect from other styles and well-aged Vouvray.  Beware this journey may just turn you into a full-time Vouvray seeker.

Tagged with: + + + chenin blanc


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Happy New Year Beau....

Vouvray rocks!....I drank a fair bit of Marc Bredif 1985 last year which was super value for around $30 Aussie....also got to try a 1959 Bredif at a Loire masterclass....uber complex and quite amazing.

Love em



confusing yes, tasty definitely.


Happy New year to you Dave. I've resolve to try more aged Vouvray in the coming months.

In the absence of any designation on the label (sec, moelleux, etc., is it possible to predict the style based on alcohol content? For example, the Chambalou I sampled is at 12% and it was definitely dry.


Hey Beau,
Happy New Year! Sorry I haven't been visiting or replied to the email. Btw, thanks for the recs. I realized right after I sent it, you were out for a bit. Hope all is well.

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Vouvray rocks!....I drank a fair bit of Marc Bredif 1985 last year which was super value for around $30 Aussie....also got to try a 1959 Bredif at a Loire masterclass....uber complex and quite amazing.

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